‘I’ve never seen anything like it before’
The men’s and women’s tennis teams competed in the biggest tournament of the year Oct. 1-3, and one athlete shone especially bright.
The teams travelled to Oklahoma City for the ITA Central Regional Championship, where sophomore Kornelia Staniszewska put on a memorable display of perseverance.
Staniszewska entered the 64-person women’s singles tournament as the No. 1 seed and marched—or rather, hobbled, due to cramps—through her bracket without losing a set. She eventually succumbed to both the cramps and her opponent in a three-set final, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5.
“I can’t forgive myself because my goal was to win this match, my goal was to go to nationals,” Staniszewska said of her loss to sixth-seeded Madeline Hill of Washburn University.
Her teammates and coach were far more benevolent.
“Kornelia’s toughness on the day of the semifinal and finals was absolutely incredible,” head coach Marc Kurtz said. “I’ve never seen anything like it before. She literally gave it everything that she had.”
Junior Zach Adkins, who went 1-1 at the tournament, echoed his coach.
“She pretty much fought harder than anyone I’ve seen fight in my whole life,” he said. “It was pretty inspiring to be honest. We never have an excuse [now] where we give less than our best again.”
Staniszewska said the support of her teammates and coaches was overwhelming and helped get her through her match.
“When I started the third set and I couldn’t serve, because when I jumped, I was cramping, I seriously wanted to give up,” she said. “But then I saw coach, and I saw the team, I was like ‘No. I can’t.’ They gave me more power and motivation, I think.”
Adkins said it was one of the best matches he had ever seen.
“We had the whole rest of the team basically cheering as loud as we could. I like to think we helped,” he said.
The cramps began on the second day of the three-day tournament when she had to play four matches—two singles and two doubles with her freshman partner Taylor Jackson—in one day.
Still, she became the first Viking to make a singles final at the regional.
The cramps worsened during her semifinal victory and rendered her nearly incapable of moving during the second set of the championship match. The semis lasted three hours, and the championship did, too.
After the final ended, she was hospitalized and received three bags of IVs.
“I couldn’t play,” she said. “I couldn’t move.”
When she was down 1-5 in the third set, the match appeared to be over. Her opponent even earned a match point during the set’s seventh game. Staniszewska decided to play with no regard for losing—shortening points and going for winners whenever possible. The strategy nearly earned her a championship.
She fought back to a 5-5 tie before falling 5-7.
Staniszewska said that falling short of her goal hurt but that she was proud of how she battled.
“It’s the main tournament for us,” she said of the regional event. “I felt prepared, I was ready. I was so excited. I was waiting for this tournament like the whole year.
Next year, she and her body will have a chance to redeem themselves. In the meantime, it will be tough to forget that match—both for bad reasons and good.
“I will never forget those matches for the rest of my life and will always tell that story to future players,” Kurtz said. “She was unbelievable.”
Adkins brothers pick up regional wins
Four men’s tennis players accompanied the four women to Oklahoma City for the ITA Central Regional Championship and combined to win three matches—all of which were won by Adkins brothers, junior Zach and freshman Charlie.
Zach was seeded 16th in the 64-man singles field, projected to advance to the third round where he would have met the tournament’s No. 1 seed. He won his first match before falling 1-6, 6-7 in his second-round match.
“I feel like I should have made the third round,” he said. “I lost a close one.”
He said that he simply ran out of time, that he figured out his opponent a little too late. He said he was more pleased with his first-round play.
“I won my first match 6-0, 6-1,” he said. “It wasn’t too bad—I played really [well], though.”
His brother Charlie lost his first match before winning a pair of consolation matches, including a 12-10 super-tiebreak in the second consolation match. A super-tiebreak is a tiebreaker played up to 10 points which masquerades as a third set. All matches other than finals use this formula to decide three-set matches.
Charlie could have advanced further but lost a super-tiebreaker in his third consolation match.
Zach said he wished the team could play in more major individual tournaments but added that he felt fortunate to play in any at all. He’s already looking forward to his final opportunity next year.
“Personally, for me, [this meet] is the most important of the year,” Zach Adkins said. “I wish we had more of these. If we had more, I would put less pressure on myself. I feel a lot of pressure to do well, especially because now I only have one more chance.”
During the interim break of the tennis season, he said he will focus on improving his overall fitness and conditioning.